Qixi Festival, My Tragic Chinese Valentine’s Story- The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd: A Tale of Eternal Love and Sacrifice

Qixi Festival, My Tragic Chinese Valentine’s Story- The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd: A Tale of Eternal Love and Sacrifice

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  • The Night of Separation Arrives

  1. The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd: A Tale of Eternal Love and Sacrifice

 

Cowherd
Cowherd

It is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, and I feel a familiar nostalgic sadness in my heart. As the Weaver Girl, I have been separated from my true love, the Cowherd, for this one night every year for centuries. Though it pains me, this is the consequence I must face for neglecting my duties in the heavens.
As dusk falls on this midsummer night, I tidy my chamber and prepare for the long night ahead. I think of my beloved Cowherd waiting for me on the other side of the Silver River, which stretches across the Milky Way. We are only allowed to meet on this night, the Magpie Festival, when magpies form a bridge for us to cross and reunite. Yes, our love even touched the hearts of the famously romantic magpies.

  • Magpies: The Symbol of Romance and Lifelong Devotion

  • Why are Magpies a symbol of Romance?

  • Magpies form monogamous pair bonds that last their entire lives. They choose one mate and remain faithful and devoted to that mate year after year.
    Magpies‘ courtship usually begins in early spring. Male magpies will woo female magpies by bringing them food gifts and putting on elaborate displays. Once paired, partners preen each other’s feathers and reinforce their bond. Both the male and female magpies work together to build a nest, raise their young, and defend their territory as a couple. They are protective and affectionate parents. Partners exhibit grief when one magpie dies, sometimes visiting the deceased magpie‘s body. The surviving magpie may stay single long before seeking a new mate. Even when not breeding, magpie pairs stay close together year-round. They forage, travel, and roost side-by-side. Their bond is based on companionship. Like Cowherd and me, magpie pairs engage in bonding behaviours like preening each other’s feathers, vocal duets, and elaborate greeting rituals. These help strengthen their lifelong bond. They frequently present food gifts to their mate, especially during courtship season and throughout the year. This “gift-giving” reinforces the pair’s bond. Magpie couples may perform impressive aerial displays together, swooping and diving in tandem. This demonstrates the coordination and synergy between the bonded pair. Both males and females defend their nests and territory together. Having two vigilant parents is advantageous for deterring predators and threats. Magpie pairs are not just fairweather friends – they stick together through all kinds of challenges. Even severe winters and scarce food does not tempt them to abandon their mate. Magpie couples use vocalizations and frequent physical contact to constantly reinforce their pair bond. One magpie may gently preen its partner’s neck and head feathers as a gesture of affection. Even briefly separated, magpie pairs engage in elaborate greeting rituals on reuniting. This can involve swooping displays, bowing, vocalizations, and enthusiastic preening. Magpies may tenderly feed their sick or injured mate, bringing food directly to them until they recover. This nursing shows their loving commitment.
    When one magpie dies, the grieving process of the remaining mate can last weeks or months. Their sorrow indicates the depth of their attachment. Widowed magpies are reluctant to find a new mate after losing their longtime partner. Most remain single for at least one breeding season after bereavement.
    One heartbreaking account describes a grief-stricken magpie still visiting the site where its mate was hit by a car months afterwards. Its mourning demonstrated profound emotion. A widowed magpie was observed tenderly bringing grass and sticks to the former nest it had shared with its deceased mate season after season, suggesting deep nostalgia. Magpie couples defend their territory in tandem. One will loudly distract intruders while the partner sneaks up behind to help chase the threat away together. Males and females mutually participate in nest defence and feeding offspring. One is not more “dominant”- they operate as equals and a unit. Magpie couples work cooperatively when building intricate nests together. They also share sitting on the nest and feeding duties equally. Even juvenile magpies stay with their parents as “helper” birds for several months after fledging. The family bonds run strong in magpies. Magpie pairs remain side by side when foraging. One bird will watch for threats as the partner focuses on finding food cooperatively. Long-term studies show magpie divorce is exceptionally rare after pairs mate. Once they choose a loyal partner, that bond can weather decades until death. Even non-breeding magpies remain with their mate year-round. The relationship seems about far more than just raising young together seasonally.
    Biologists think magpies‘ lifelong loyalty and devotion help them succeed at raising young since both parents cooperate to feed and care for their brood.

I gather my robes and bow my head to the Jade Emperor, ruler of all heavens, asking for permission to descend. With a nod of approval, I begin my journey…

  • Crossing the Silver River: A Love Reunited on the Seventh Night of the Seventh Lunar 

  • Crossing the Silver River

I arrive at the river’s edge, its waters shimmering like liquid stars under the moonlight, reminding me of the night driving to see the meteor shower with one of my ex years ago in Canada. My heart leaps at the sight of a long, makeshift bridge stretching across the expanse, built by a procession of magpies. Their wings touch tip to tip, a living bridge for me to meet my love.
I lift my robes and begin crossing gently, careful not to disturb the magpies. The river murmurs below me, and I feel overcome with gratitude for the magpies‘ kindness. After what feels like an eternity, I step onto the other bank into my Cowherd’s world.
As soon as my feet touch the earth, I hear a voice call my name. “Weaver Girl!” My Cowherd runs to me, arms outstretched. I run into his warm embrace, tears of joy welling in my eyes. We hold each other close, unable to believe our good fortune to be reunited on this night.
For a short while, we are lost in our own world, forgetting duties and consequences, focused only on each other. I gaze at the face I’ve missed for a year and gently touch his cheek. Our time together is so fleeting that we dare not waste a moment.

  • Reunited at Last

Hand in hand, we walk together under the moonlight. My Cowherd points out the different stars and constellations, reminding me of the names we gave them together. I smile, flooded with memories of stargazing as young lovers without the burdens of duty that keep us apart today.
We settle beneath a great oak tree and talk for hours, making up for lost time. I tell Cowherd about the robes I’ve woven on my celestial loom and the happenings in the heavens over the past year. He tells me stories of his cows, his lonely waiting for this night, and his undying love for me.
I know that soon we will have to part again for another year. My heart aches, but I push the thought aside for now and focus on cherishing every second we have together. Tomorrow will bring sorrow, so I will make the most of our joy tonight.
As the hour grows late, my Cowherd gathers peach blossoms and makes me a crown. I weave five-coloured threads into a bracelet for him so a part of me can stay by his side when I am gone. We exchange these gifts, promising to think of each other when we wear them.
The sky begins to lighten all too soon, signalling that our time together is ending. We hold each other close, wishing this night would never end. Yet we know we must abide by the rules of heaven and earth. With one final kiss, I turn to make the lonely journey back across the Silver River

  • The Painful Return: Separation and Longing in the Weaver Girl’s Story:

  • The Painful Return

I force myself not to look back, though every fibre of my being wants to stay with my beloved. Step by heavy step, I cross back over the magpie bridge, tears blurring my vision. My heart feels as though it is shattering, but I must be strong.
As the first rays of dawn light up the sky, the last magpie flies away, and the bridge across the Milky Way disappears. I am alone again, separated by the great river from my Cowherd‘s arms. I fall to my knees and weep.
But I know I will see my love again next year on this night. I dry my tears and slowly return to my chamber in the heavens. Though I am still Heartbroken, I find solace in knowing our love remains strong. I will be patient and pass the long days at my loom, weaving gorgeous brocades, as I wait another 365 days for the seventh night of the seventh Lunar month.

  • Keeping Our Love Alive: The Eternal Bond of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd
  • Keeping Our Love Alive

Each separation takes its toll as the years go by, but our bond continues to grow deeper. My Cowherd and I live for the moments we can steal together. I always keep him in my heart, just as he keeps thoughts of me close while tending his herd.
Though the Jade Emperor insists we remain apart, he cannot stop us from loving one another completely. Our devotion spans the centuries, burning as brightly as the stars crossed by the Silver River.
We journey across the Milky Way every year to reunite on this night. As long as love remains in the world, the magpies will return to build their bridge between us.

Our story has become a legend, inspiring people across the land to celebrate true love. So though I endure the pain of separation, I also feel joy knowing our tale kindles hope in so many hearts. This brings meaning to our sacrifices.
As night begins to fall, I ready myself to cross over again. I am counting down the moments until I can return to my Cowherd‘s embrace. Though the heavens decree we cannot remain together, they cannot dictate the depth of our feelings for one another. Our love is eternal. This year’s Qixi Festival falls on Tuesday, August 22nd, just around the corner. This year would mark approximately 2,229 years since its origins in the Han Dynasty, and over 2000 years of pain remain in me.

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